What’s New for Older Eyes

By Jeff Hopkins / Contributing Editor
Wednesday, June 28, 2023 2:00 AM Mankind has been grappling with the problem of presbyopia ever since people started living long enough to experience it. We are roughly 750 years into the era of reading glasses, 250 years into the multifocals era, 70 years into the progressive lens era, and 20 years into the customized progressive lens era. With all of these advancements, and particularly the explosion of technology in the past few decades, eyeglass dispensers and wearers might be forgiven for expressing some cynicism about claims of new advancements in the cause of clearer vision for presbyopes and their aging eyes.

Video Visionaries Sharpen Focus on Labs

By Jeff Hopkins / Contributing Editor
Tuesday, October 11, 2022 12:39 AM Some of us can remember a time when video could only be seen on the living room TV, and viewing options were limited to whatever the local stations were showing. Now it’s everywhere, and anyone with a smartphone is a budding videographer. One of the benefits of this proliferation of video capabilities is that almost anyone with can share their message with the world—and they usually share it on YouTube.

Take This Job… Please. How Optical Labs Are Coping With Labor Shortages

By Jeff Hopkins / Contributing Editor
Saturday, April 23, 2022 1:29 AM The story is the same anywhere you look – favorite foods missing from the grocery store shelves, restaurants and shops shortening their hours, delays in getting prescriptions filled. It’s no surprise when you consider that according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in 2021 47.4 million people voluntarily left their jobs – a phenomenon known as “The Great Resignation.” The situation has affected nearly every type of business, including optical labs.

Consolidation Meets Cooperation

By Jeff Hopkins
Sunday, February 6, 2022 3:00 AM For decades, lens suppliers have expanded their lab networks through acquisition, achieving a level of consolidation that independents can find hard to compete with. At the same time, private equity firms are consolidating formerly independent practices into ever-larger groups. Pacific Artisan Labs (PAL), an independent lab based in Portland, Ore., is bucking this trend toward top-down consolidation by reversing it—creating a grassroots consolidation that invites independent ECPs to become ownership partners in their growing lab network.

Reengineering and Renovation

By Andrew Karp and Jeff Hopkins
Monday, October 25, 2021 1:00 AM The term “work in progress” accurately defines most prescription optical laboratories. No matter how smoothly a lab may be running, there’s always something that needs updating or replacing, whether it’s adding a single piece of equipment, reengineering an entire production line or even building a whole facility. It’s an endless cycle of invention and reinvention, and labs must learn to adjust to it while continuing to service customers, a challenge which can be daunting for any business.

Cherry Optical Lab: Moving From a Modern Lab to a Future Lab

By Andrew Karp and Jeff Hopkins
Tuesday, October 19, 2021 12:59 AM Synopsis: In May, 2020, Cherry Optical Lab began a major expansion and equipment upgrade project adding 6,500 square feet of production and creating a four-building campus. Company president Adam Cherry described how the complex process unfolded, and what resulted.

Automating With Robotics for Faster Speed and Better Quality at the Zeiss Lab

By Andrew Karp and Jeff Hopkins
Tuesday, October 19, 2021 12:58 AM Synopsis: Zeiss recently completed a multi-year, $20 million reengineering project at their flagship lab in Hebron, Kentucky. Barry Lannon, head of lab operations and supply chain for Carl Zeiss Vision, managed the Industry 4.0 process. He explained what it took to plan and execute the multi-level project, and how Zeiss customers are benefitting from the upgrade.

Incremental Upgrades Yield Big Results for LBC Optics

By Andrew Karp and Jeff Hopkins
Tuesday, October 19, 2021 12:57 AM Synopsis: LBC Optics services Wisconsin Vision’s 38 stores. The regional retailer was ranked 31st in Vision Monday’s 2020 Top Retailer ranking. LBC’s reengineering project was two-fold. The first was constructing a new conveyor line that could transfer job trays automatically using existing equipment that has the capability to function in this capacity. Second was installing a new control stacker and two new auto polishers to complete a line that produced 100 lenses/hour from blocker to final wash station.

Plastic Plus Limited Expands to Accommodate Increasing Demand

By Andrew Karp and Jeff Hopkins
Tuesday, October 19, 2021 12:56 AM Synopsis: Plastic Plus underwent major expansions in 2008 and 2017, and is currently adding new equipment. (Most of this report refers to the 2017 expansion.) Lab owner and president Paul Faibish offered an inside perspective on how the lab was transformed by new technologies.

Wisconsin Vision Associates Serves Current and Future Customers Better

By Andrew Karp and Jeff Hopkins
Tuesday, October 19, 2021 12:55 AM Synopsis: Wisconsin Vision Associates (WVA) is in the midst of a reengineering process that will more than double the lab’s capacity. WVA’s vice president for operations, Jeffery Erickson, discussed the goals of the project and the many steps involved in bringing it to fruition.

Satisloh’s Checklist for Lab Reengineering

By Andrew Karp and Jeff Hopkins
Tuesday, October 19, 2021 12:54 AM Satisloh, a leading supplier of lens processing systems and equipment, has developed this checklist of important items for labs to consider when undertaking a reengineering project, and the key success factors for such a project.

A Private Affair: The Rise of Private Labels in Independent Labs

By Jeff Hopkins / Contributing Editor
Monday, August 2, 2021 1:45 AM Private label brands, also known as house brands (or somewhat less kindly, generic products) are a common feature of grocery stores, providing shoppers with a lower-priced alternative to well-known and trusted brands. Often they are relegated to the lower shelves, with brand names occupying the coveted eye-level spots. Optical labs have sometimes referred to themselves as “grocery stores,” offering their customers a wide range of branded products to suit their preferences. As relationships with manufacturers evolved, some labs would give a particular name-brand prominence over others. Often labs would also offer a private label as a lower-priced, lower-shelf alternative. Today, some independent labs are flipping the script on brands, positioning their private-label in the foreground as their go-to product line, while offering established brands as alternatives. To understand this new phenomenon, we spoke to three independent lab execs whose labs are using this approach and having success with it.

Family Business: Lab Leadership Across Generations

By Jeff Hopkins / Contributing Editor
Thursday, February 18, 2021 12:30 AM The optical industry is often viewed as a family: it is relatively small, as industries go, and it often seems like everybody knows everyone else. But many optical businesses, including labs, are literally family affairs passed on from one generation to the next, creating a continuity of culture and customer relationships. To understand the attraction, advantages and the rewards of working in the family business, VM spoke to four lab leaders who are following in their parents’ footsteps and creating new ones of their own.

The Human Factor: Lab Functions That Resist Automation

By Jeff Hopkins / Contributing Editor
Thursday, February 18, 2021 12:29 AM The first two decades of the 21st century have seen many new developments and large investments in lab automation. Automating functions increases efficiency, reduces turnaround time and points of failure in lens fabrication and finishing, and almost everyone who knows the lab business would agree that the changes are for the best.

Start Me Up: What it Takes to Launch a New Rx Lab

By Jeff Hopkins, Contributing Editor
Tuesday, December 22, 2020 6:29 PM With the optical lab landscape seemingly dominated by manufacturers’ networks and a few large independent labs, you could be forgiven for thinking that there is no room in the market for new players. Yet optical veterans continue to find fertile ground for the establishment of new small independent labs, and success is following.